On Thursday morning I stepped out to carry out the morning chores and no-one stepped out of the garage to meet me. The greeting of our black cat crying for breakfast is as constant as the sun and moon. On Thursday she was not to be seen, in my heart I already knew something was wrong.
On thursday evening she was missing again and in the winter darkness I went hunting for her.
I dug a hole under one of the apple trees. I choose a young tree so as not to disturb mature roots and also, although the thought disturbed me, to give a boost of growth to the growing tree. My pragmatism disturbed me.
She was gone. She slipped away from us in her sleep. From her pose it was not a cold curled sleep. It was not a sleep of illness or pain. It was a relaxed and deep comfortable sleep. As I looked at her in her cosy bed I kept expecting, wished for, her body to rise and fall and let out her usual deep snore.
Tille was a wonderful little cat. She was always at my heels in the morning and evening as I pottered around the cottage. When we walked down the lane she would always follow in all kinds of weather. On a few occasions she even followed us to our neighbours and waited obediently outside their door, more dog-like than cat. She loved scratches under her chin, her fur was always soft, and when I put my nose to her forehead she always smelled beautifully of grass and warm earth.
I had to lift her and I hesitated. This was our dearest pet. She was gone and what was left was only death. I hesitated and did not want to touch death. With these hands I had taken life, the life of our livestock, but in that moment I was afraid of death, as if death was something contagious. I lifted her, and although I knew this was an empty shell, I caught myself appologising to her. I caught myself crying and saying, “I’m sorry girl”. I set her underneath the apple tree. She still held her sleeping pose and this was not lost on me, this eternal sleeping.
They say pets teach children about many things including death. I’m not naive enough to think that it is only our children they teach.
I can’t remember anything about Thursday morning apart from her absence and a small part of me preparing myself for the possibility. The evening was different. I remember it all in detail. In that waukrife moment I remember the dark, the moon hanging over us, the bare branches around us, the woodsmoke in the air, and the cold clotted soil piled up. I remember the feeling of loss and I remember her sleeping deep in the earth.